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Child Custody: What's it like on Jersey Shore?

Child Custody:  What's It Like on Jersey Shore?

GTL: Gym, Tan, Little Fist Pumping Bundle of Joy

Who Gets Amabella DelVecchio??

On May 15, 2013, Paul DelVechhio aka "DJ Pauly D" of MTV's Jersey Shore welcomed his first child into the world. He had a sweet baby girl, Amabella, who is, according to celebrity gossip website TMZ, already fist pumping (http://www.tmz.com/2013/10/22/pauly-d-baby-pic-picture-amabella/). Although his little Jersey Princess, who clearly inherited her father's fabulous hair, is as precious as can be, Pauly D's relationship with the mother of his child is, by contrast, one big hot mess.

Amabella is the product of a one-night stand between Pauly and a 25 year old woman he met while performing in Las Vegas, known only as "Amanda". According to various reports, he and his baby's mama don't know each other well or, really at all. I suppose we can't be too surprised, considering that Pauly has said, on national television: "The party's in Pauly D's pants tonight." Pauly D has reportedly filed for custody of his daughter. It is unclear how much time Pauly wants, but he certainly wants to be involved in his daughter's life (even though, according to reports, he hasn't met Amabella yet).

Child Custody in Pennsylvania

Baby Amabella is, like so many children, at the center of a bitter legal battle between her parents. What would happen if Amabella lived in Pennsylvania? Would Pauly D get custody?

First, it is important to note that there are two types of custody. The first type of is physical - Which parent will the child live with? How much time will the child spend with each parent? The second type is legal custody - Who will make major life decisions for the child? Who decides what medical procedures the child will have? Who decides where the child goes to school? A parent can bring a claim for both together or separately.  

In Pennsylvania, the primary consideration in all custody disputes is the child's best interest. The courts prefer to allow parents to share custody, both physical and legal, of their child. Unless a parent has a serious problem that prevents them from effectively parenting the child, such as erratic behaviors or an unhealthy environment, which puts the child at risk for physical, mental and/or emotional harm, the court will award the parties shared physical and legal. Shared legal means that the each parent has an equal say in making major decisions for their child. Shared physical means that the child will spend approximately equal time with each parent. How time is shared depends greatly on the circumstances of each case. There is no hard and fast rule for dividing up time in shared custody cases. Parents usually hope to share custodial time of their children at an equal 50/50, but splits of time in shared cases can occur in any number of ways.

Primary custody is awarded when a party can show that it is in the child's best interest for them to be with one parent for a majority of the time. Primary custodianship of one parent is often coupled with partial custodial time or visitation by the other parent. As the name implies, when primary is awarded, the child will spend the majority of their time with one parent and a substantially less amount of time with the other parent. There is no 'primary legal custody', as it is impractical to expect one parent to make 'most' decisions and the other to make 'some'. The logistics of such an arrangement would be too hard for even the best parents to work out.

Sole or full custody as it is sometimes called, is a rarity. Only in exceptional circumstances, when a parent truly cannot function as a parent for some reason, will a court award a party sole custodianship. Even if a court determines that sole physical is in the child's best interest, a court may still order that the parents share legal custody of the child. Before cutting any parent out of a child's life, the court considers the interests of the child very carefully. If there is any way to provide for shared or primary custody, the court will attempt to achieve it. However, in some cases, such as if a parent regularly abuses drugs and alcohol in the presence of the children, such that the children are put in harm's way, sole physical and legal is the only suitable option.

In Pauly D's case, his claim is that Amanda is an unfit parent for Amabella because she has a child from another relationship and she used to work at Hooters. By Pennsylvania standards, that is in no way sufficient to state a claim for primary or sole. Based on the information we have through celebrity gossip outlets, a Pennsylvania court would likely order Pauly D and Amanda to share physical and legal of Amabella. The time Amabella spends with each parent would depend on her parents work schedules, especially when her famous father spends a great deal of time on the road. It remains to be seen how Pauly D and Amanda will handle their custody battle, but I am sure there will be plenty of ups and downs along the way.

Each case is unique. If you are a mother or father who wants to sue or has been sued by your partner for custody of your child or children, contact McMorrow Law today at 724-940-0100. 

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